Monday, October 5, 2015

Another Mass Shooting

So, big shock, another asshole with guns up the wazzoo has shot up a school. This happens with such disturbing regularity that we've gotten numb to it, and unless it happens in our own back yard, we seem not to even care. In fact, the knee-jerk reaction to all this is for so-called conservatives to immediately condemn any attempts at attempting to regulate firearms in the aftermath, almost as if to say "Don't even think of using this tragedy for political ends, bub!"

Now let me be clear, I'm very much in favor of defensive weapons. I believe we have the right to protect ourselves and our homes from burglars and/or random assailants. The real question, at least for me, is where do you draw the line between a defensive weapon and an offensive weapon? It bears repeating that you don't need an AK-47 to shoot deer, and you hardly need an Uzi to keep burglars away from your front porch. So, in light of another mass shooting, where ought we draw the line? Because it's perfectly clear by now, we'd better draw the damned line somewhere.

Perhaps now is a good time to look at the second amendment to the Constitution and remember what it says:

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

Now, here's where I get confused: Where in there does it say the government can't issue a license or a permit? So far as I can tell, it doesn't. Where does it say that citizens must be allowed to sell such guns to others without any oversight? It doesn't say that, either. In other words, taken at its literal meaning, the government can regulate the shit out of firearms! It's only the keeping and bearing of them that cannot be infringed. But buying, selling, and bartering for firearms is fair game!

Another key point, as has often been pointed out, is that the technology of warfare has changed radically over the last 240 years. The most common application of weapons technology at the time the second amendment was written was the musket, and the pinnacle of weapons technology was the impossibly bulky cannon. A well regulated militia meant that people would be called to war, at which point fathers would get the family musket from off the fireplace mantle and go fight. Both federal and state governments were also usually strapped for cash, and income taxes were unheard of. They simply couldn't afford to arm draftees! It was hard enough just to feed them! It was literally an era of BYOG - bring your own gun. But my, how times have changed!

Today, our wealthy nation has developed cruise missiles, laser-guided bombs, Abrams tanks, harrier jets, stealth aircraft, napalm, aircraft carriers, gunship helicopters, satellite surveillance, drones, and very likely soon, droid armies. And, let's not forget, the atomic bomb. Now, if the second amendment is to be taken at face value, then citizens should be able to obtain "arms" of the same technological advancement by today's standards, as the musket was back in 1776. But that means that the average citizen would be able to purchase bazookas, rocket-propelled grenades, landmines, tanks and fighter-jets. But just try obtaining any of these! The government clamps down on you like a vice! And rightly so! Armed citizens are one thing. Heavily armed citizens are quite something else! The government has determined that modern military equipment should not go to common citizens. Good thing, too, or else Donald Trump would be able to buy his own private military to go to war against the private army of Bill Gates!

So the government has already determined that some weapons are illegal. Somewhere between musket and atomic bomb, we need to draw the line. And here it is good to point out one of the more common arguments used by gun advocates, namely that citizens need to be armed in order to prevent the government from taking away citizens' rights and freedoms. If the citizens are disarmed, they will have no defense against oppression.

Um, two things in response to that: First, the government has already taken away your rights and freedoms! Uncle Sam has been ass-fucking the people since Vietnam! Gerrymandering has stolen their votes by the billions! Corporate interests have bought our government and transformed it from a democracy into a plutocracy - an oligarchy of the elite wealthy class. The revolution that assault rifles are supposed to be needed for should have happened with the Citizens' United ruling! And yet the rednecks of our nation just sit there on their fat asses, never bothering to march on Washington with the weapons they claimed were meant to defend our rights! What bullshit!

The other point is this: You are already disarmed! Do you really think a puny little assault rifle matters to an M-1 Abrams tank? Do you think the government will care if you shoot down one drone while the other fifteen take you down? Do you think your stockpile of ordinance will even matter if one smart-bomb hits it with napalm? Fighting our government's massive arsenal with AK-47's is akin to fighting a fire-breathing dragon with a book of matches!

But disarmed though we may be, people who stockpile guns are still a significant threat to other citizens. They can't take on the government, but they can certainly target a room full of defenseless students, or a day care full of kids, or a theater full of moviegoers. Our government could at least protect them. Instead, it protects the shooters - at least until after the massacre. What madness!

We need private hunters to help regulate our wildlife, and we need citizens to carry small arms to help prevent those who would go on a shooting rampage from getting very far. But honestly, can't we all agree that someone who buys 100 Kalashnikovs at a gun show is probably up to no good?

If the NRA were about defense, as it claims, then no state of the union would be able to outlaw tasers. A taser is a defensive weapon, and thus We The People have a right to it. But the NRA doesn't give a fuck about that. Five states and the District of Columbia all outlaw tasers. Seven states and D.C. outlaw assault rifles. Four of those states, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey, at least outlaw both, but Rhode Island is stupid enough to legalize assault rifles while banning tasers! And where is the NRA? Nowhere to be found. Wisconsin used to be similar to Rhode Island in this respect, but the concealed carry law, passed by Scott Walker in 2011, lifted the ban on tasers. Wisconsinites can now own them - with a permit.

Why not a permit for other defensive weapons as well?

Yes, you have the Constitutional right to bear arms. You do not have the constitutional right to stockpile. You need one gun for defense. A few if you want options (shotgun vs. handgun, for example). But if you own dozens of guns, you're nuts! Oh, you're a collector? I don't care. Find another hobby!

Yes, you have the right to buy a gun. You do not have the right to buy one without oversight. And you sure as hell on earth don't have the right to sell it to someone else afterward!

Yes, you have the right to carry a gun. You don't have the right to do so without a license!

Finally, let me point out that the problem is not crazy people. We're ALL crazy! The problem is that even the sanest among us can crack. Even the nice guys occasionally go postal. If we assume that someone is crazy just because he kills people, we make a dire mistake. Ted Kaczynski was one of the most sober and sane people alive, but that didn't stop him from becoming the unibomber.

You say guns don't kill people? People kill people? You're right! People kill people - with guns!

I mean, come on! If we can't at least ban the big shit after this latest tragedy, America really doesn't stand a chance.



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